I was pleased to hear that the first Neighbourhood Plan produced by a South Cambs village rolled off the assembly line this month - for Great Abington. Neighbourhood Plans of different levels of maturity - and complexity - are being worked up by several other villages nearby and across the district. I've sat in on meetings for Foxton and Thriplow which are at an earlier stage, and I'm chairing Whittlesford Neighbourhood Plan steering group.
Made possible by the 2011 Localism Act, Neighbourhood Plans are essentially the opportunity for a community to say where it thinks development could take place - and where not - and specify what matters to a village in terms of transport, heritage, housing need and so on. Whittlesford's plan has a good deal of information and policy about its natural environment.
The challenge for the people developing the plans is that they need to be sufficiently drafted in planning language to be intelligible to a planning officer dealing with an application in the future, and yet sufficiently clear so that residents of the village for which the Plan is intended can see its value and vote for it. It isn't a panacea for all village problems - it is more a statement of looking forward. For Whittlesford the focus of the Plan in terms of potential development is the land currently occupied by the county highways depot near the station.
Consultation on what the Plan might look like will start in March. Drop in type events are planned, following a useful healthcheck by a planning consultant, using a grant from the government.